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Crisis Workshop

The workshop demonstrates a real-life outbreak investigation along with the public discussion and market repercussion situations to help producers develop skills to mitigate a crisis situation and handle public relations.


  • Participants will developing crisis management skills
  • Participants will be able to demonstrate greater preparedness on how to handle a foodborne illness outbreak
  • Participants will understand what happens during an outbreak leading to greater coordination and an overall higher level of knowledge around food safety risks

Funded by the North Carolina Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Preparing for a foodborne illness crisis is necessary

Foodborne disease causes an estimated 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths annually, with U.S. economic costs estimated at 152 billion to 1.4 trillion annually. An increasing number of these illnesses are associated with fresh fruits and vegetables. An analysis of outbreaks from 1990-2003 found that 12% of outbreaks and 20% of outbreak-related illnesses were associated with produce. Once a product is implicated in an outbreak, all growers are affected although the contaminated product may have come from one grower in a different locale. In 2008, tomato growers, wholesalers, and retailers in Florida lost an estimated $250 million when they could not sell their product after an investigation of possible Salmonella spp., outbreak linked to their product resulting in a national health advisory. Consumer confidence around the safety of tomato products eroded, calling food safety practices on farms and throughout the supply chain in question. Other producers were also affected by this health advisory and found themselves answering questions about growing conditions, the safety of inputs (including water) handling and distribution of product.

Why this approach?

These evidence-based workshops utilizing simulated outbreak situations were developed to prompt participant interaction with facilitators to gain knowledge instead of lecture directed content. The role-play was effective in raising awareness of crisis management gaps, increasing preparation through experience and encouraging conversations regarding other management strategies.

Why we chose this approach?

Rather than a traditional, lecture-based adult education extension activity, this project was based on a role-play framework where producers were asked to assume different positions within their industry as an outbreak unfolded. Tabletop and simulation exercises have been used to prepare and evaluate the disaster management capacity of public health officials in the event of a pandemic (Steward and Wan, 2007). These types of exercises utilize role-play, which promotes active learning, that is superior to passive learning (Bell, 2001; Van Ments, 1999). Role-play has been defined as ‘an experiential learning technique with learners acting out roles in case scenarios to provide targeted practice and feedback to train skills’ (Kiger, 2004). Using role-play in education improves the realism of the training situation and enables students to deal with difficult issues without consequences (Van Ments, 1999). Students develop skills, increase knowledge and form attitudes as a result of using role-play as a teaching method (Bell, 2001). Students recall more information from role-play sessions than from passive lectures (DeNeve and Heppner, 1997).

Kiger, A. 2004. Teaching for Health. Churchill Livingstone. Edinburgh

Van Ments, M.1999. The Effective Use of Role-Play. Kogan Page. London